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New Abortion Rules Blocked In Florida, Indiana Hours Before Taking Effect

Federal judges have blocked new restrictions on access to abortions in Florida and Indiana just hours before laws in those states were set to take effect.

This follows Monday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned a controversial Texas law imposing restrictions on the procedure, deeming them unconstitutional.

In Florida, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a stay on portions of an abortion law late Thursday. As NPR's Greg Allen tells our Newscast unit, the law would have prevented Planned Parenthood and other clinics that perform abortions from receiving any public money, even for routine health screenings. Greg explains:

"One provision would have banned any state money from going to clinics that perform abortions, even if it's for nonabortion care — things like HIV tests and cancer screening. Hinkle said that's aimed at discouraging clinics from performing abortions, which the Supreme Court has ruled is unconstitutional."

As Hinkle writes in the preliminary injunction, "No court has embraced the defendants' position. And there is no logic to it. That a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion does not mean a legislature can impose otherwise-unconstitutional conditions on public funding."

The court also blocked a provision that would have required state employees in Florida to inspect the medical records of 50 percent of clinic patients. Planned Parenthood argued that the extensive inspection was a burden to clinics and a privacy violation. Hinkle agreed.

Hinkle "left in place a part of the law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital because Planned Parenthood didn't challenge it," as Greg reports. That restriction is similar to portions of the Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down this week.

Planned Parenthood of Florida Executive Director Laura Goodhue praised the ruling and called the law "a misguided attempt — a disingenuous attempt — to block access to a safe and legal procedure by discriminating against abortion providers," WFSU's Lynn Hatter tells our Newscast unit.

The injunction "puts the two portions of the law on hold until [Hinkle] issues a full ruling on the merits of the lawsuit," as The Associated Press reports.

In Indiana, U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt blocked a controversial law that imposed a different set of restrictions on access to abortion.

As The Two-Way has reported, the bill signed by Gov. Mike Pence in March banned abortion for fetal abnormality and criminalized the procedure when motivated solely because of factors such as the fetus's sex or race.

But Pratt ruled that a state doesn't have the right to ban abortion based only on the woman's reason for seeking the procedure. The case was filed by Planned Parenthood. As the injunction reads:

"[T]he very notion that, pre-viability, a State can examine the basis for a woman's choice to make this private, personal and difficult decision, if she at some point earlier decided she wants a child as a general matter, is inconsistent with the notion of a right rooted in privacy concerns and a liberty right to make independent decisions."

North Dakota introduced a ban on abortions for genetic abnormalities in 2013, but as NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports, "abortion providers say it's difficult to enforce."

After the ruling, the head of the anti-abortion America Family Association of Indiana, Micah Clark, told the AP that he "wasn't entirely surprised by the judge's ruling." Clark adds: "We knew we were probably pushing the envelope a little bit, but felt like we were on good legal grounds."

Following Monday's Supreme Court ruling, similar abortion restrictions have also been rejected in Alabama as well as Mississippi and Wisconsin.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said in a statement, "These unconstitutional laws punish women, and we will bring them down law by law and state by state. We have been fighting these restrictions on all fronts for years, organizing in the field, building for this moment — and now the wind is at our backs."

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Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.